Playing a Pitcher's Game: 5 Players Who'll Be Key To The Giants' Offense In 2011
Last year, for the first time in 56 years the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.
Looking at their roster, it's easy to see who was most responsible for their victory.
The Giants boast one of the top rotations in the league, including a two-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum, an All-Star in Matt Cain and two of the best young pitchers in the game with Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner. Their shut-down pitching was a key reason for their win in the Autumn Classic.
But let's take a look at their offense.
In 2009, the Giants had arguably the worst offense in the league despite the emergence of Pablo Sandoval.
Last year, despite Sandoval's struggles, the Giants' offense improved a lot, mainly thanks to Aubrey Huff and rookie call-up Buster Posey.
The Giants' pitching looks like it will be once again one of the best in the league, but with last year in the past and the Giants looking to defend their World Series title this upcoming season, I take a look at five players who will be key to Los Gigantes' offense this year.
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1. Aubrey Huff
Aubrey Huff was brought in on a one-year contract from the Detroit Tigers at the start of the year and by the end of it, he had been locked up for another two years in the Bay Area.
Huff was a major cog of the Giants' offense last year as he had a .290 BA, 26 HR and 86 RBI.
He led the Giants in all those categories.
With him earning $11 million this year, Huff simply needs to repeat that kind of production.
As a solid No. 3 option in the lineup, he's probably the Giants' best overall hitter, whilst he's also solid defensively.
If he hits those type of numbers again, I'd say he'd earnt his pay raise.
2. Miguel Tejada
Miguel Tejada has the job of replacing two key parts of the Giants' offense from last year.
Brought in from the Padres as the Giants' only real big move this offseason, the former MVP has to replace Juan Uribe (one of the Giants' better hitters from last year) and Edgar Renteria (World Series MVP).
Whilst nobody expects him to put up MVP numbers, somewhere between 10-20 HR and 60-plus RBIs would be nice.
With Tejada being 36, he probably won't be sticking around for too long, but some solid production from the shortstop position would definitely help Bruce Bochy and Co.
3. Cody Ross
After four years with the Florida Marlins, the Giants picked Ross up during the summer on a waiver claim.
What a decision that was.
Whilst his 33 games in the regular season were average, he was one of the players that pushed San Fran over the top in October.
Getting his chance in the playoffs, he exploded to help knock off Atlanta and then won the NLCS MVP in the series against the Phillies.
Whether he can repeat those numbers—he hit .294 and had five HR in 15 games—is up for debate, but if he can replicate anything close to those numbers during the regular season, he'll will become a solid middle-order kind of guy.
4. Buster Posey
Last year Buster Posey was rookie of the year.
And boy, did he deserve it.
Whilst Aubrey Huff and Co. were good, had it not been for Posey, the Giants may not have even made the playoffs.
He hit an incredible .305 BA, 18 HR and 67 RBI in only 108 games. With a World Series win already on his resume, Posey is only going to improve.
In three or four years or perhaps even less, he could easily overtake Joe Mauer as the best catcher in the big league.
Problem is, if he struggles, so does the whole team. He's just that important.
Last year he gave the whole team a big jolt and it looks like the offense will (eventually) be built around him this year.
Hitting behind Aubrey Huff also helps as it gives him chance to drive in lots more runs.
Barring a sophomore slump, I can easily see Posey hitting .300 again and look for him get 25 homers and 85-plus RBI.
5. Pablo Sandoval
Forget everything—this guy is the most important player for the Giants this year.
There are two Pablo Sandovals.
There is the one who hit an absurd .330 BA and 25 HR in his first season and even got strong consideration for MVP.
Then there is the one who ballooned in weight and grounded into WAY too many double plays last year.
Thing is, which one shows up?
If Sandoval returns to his 2009 form the Giants could possibly reach top 10 in offense, especially as Sandoval now has Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff hitting beside him.
However, if he can't lose his weight and his batting problems continue, it's a major loss to the Gaints. They can't expect to rely on Posey and Huff the entire season.
But the signs look good.
After being benched towards the end of the season/during the playoffs, Kung Fu Panda has been on a strict diet and workout program.
The early reports were that he has lost 15 pounds already, but now there are rumours he's lost up to 30.
If Pablo is serious about getting thinner, then expect him to be back at spring training looking much better.
If Sandoval turns back the clock to 2009 and puts up those numbers again, the Giants will have a dangerous offense to go along with their excellent pitching staff.